Zelary Ondrej Trojan

Once you could actually cop the foreign film Oscar with seditious, creative movies like The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie; now they're more likely to anoint a conventional melodrama like Zelary that's less prone to frighten the children. It tells the tale of Eliska, a med student and Czech resistance fighter who's been ratted out to the Nazis and has to hide in a village appropriately named Zelary — an arrangement that requires her to marry a much older sawmill worker named Joza, which causes predictable tension. Of course, she resists at first, and of course, she has to admit later he's a swell guy, though intrigue involving the other villagers provides ample backdrop to this story. On its modest terms Zelary is a well-done time-killer. It's nicely (though not brilliantly) shot, competently (though not artfully) directed and is packed with enough incident to keep you from reaching for the remote. All manner of things happen in the sleepy burgh of Zelary, from smirking rapists who know secrets to banished homeless children and the ever-present threat of exposure to the Nazis, and if one wonders what the point is, I can think of plenty of other schlock I've enjoyed on the same mechanical level. Still, there's something suspect about its Taming of the Shrew male-fantasy arrangement, as well as its casual use of rape every time it wants to jack up the tension and make the virtuous characters look heroic. And I can't help but resent the fact that this kind of sausage makes it to more people than a genuinely challenging art film ever will, with or without the nomination. Plus: a "making of" featurette, deleted scenes reel, more. (Columbia/Sony)